What can I add to what everyone has already mentioned the last twenty days about luck and perseverance? It is true that perseverance and luck do play a part in the publishing industry. So do well-written stories. I’d like to add two more things: chutzpah and a thick skin.
Allow me to explain.
I’ll start with chutzpah (pronounced huuts-pah), which is a Yiddish word for shameless audacity, guts, boldness, cojones. You have to be audacious to think readers would want to spend their hard-earned money to buy and read what you’ve written. I’ve been writing for 16 years and met many aspiring writers who want to publish desperately, but they lack the confidence to submit their work. They think their work is not good enough. They are scared of harsh criticism. They fear being rejected by editors, agents, and readers, which brings me to thick skin.
In order to make it in this business, you MUST develop a thick skin. Feedback from your critique partners can be brutal, rejection after rejection by editors and agents can make you doubt yourself. You have to learn to accept constructive criticism and keep going.
I started writing right after I finished my PhD and decided to be a stay-at-home mother. The transition from writing technical papers and synthesizing polymers and organic compounds to making baby food and going to play dates with other stay-at-home professional women was bumpy. To stop myself from drowning, I started to write. At first, I wrote simple stories, which I read to my kids. Then I moved on to chapter books, most of them had new twists to the old fairy tales. These books are still in my old hard drive.
Then I decided to write a romance book, stopped by the library during story time and flipped through Writer’s Market for possible publishers. I submitted queries and got nothing but rejections. Writing peer-review papers and writing fiction are two very different things. I didn’t know anything about critique groups or online sites for aspiring writers either. It was me, the kiddos playing on the floor behind me and my computer. I taught myself how to write fiction, cleaned up my WIP and resubmitted. Finally, I found a small press willing to invest in a new writer. Luck? I thought so.
Three books later, they’d paid me close to nothing. The publisher, though legitimate and recognized my RWA, apparently treated its authors like money cow. We sued (tried anyway) to get back the rights to our books, things turned ugly and we lost. I quit writing, but then that doggone chutzpah caught me by the hair and yanked me back. I decided to re-invent myself.
My old publisher still has the rights to my books, but I refuse to give them a reason to milk me dry, so I write under a new name, don’t use my pictures anywhere, and I get to do what I love…write, publish, and get paid for it. Did I mention I’m also indie-published? yep-yep-yep!